An abundance of water, but fire is still a threat

Barbara Hendricks' Loon Lake column looks at the importance of water, the threat of fires, and why robins like sprinklers.

Make hay and make it rain?

Sunshine and blue skies marked the month of June along Loon Lake Road. Sure, there was a bit of rain as well, and as usual it came along just as the ranchers had cut their first crop of hay. It seems that cutting hay is a very effective rain-making activity. Now the hay is all stacked, the next crop is well underway, and the rain is scarce, so irrigation systems are working around the clock.

It is possible to grow a wide variety of crops here, but all need to be watered. When homesteaders first came into the area they looked for low-lying, damp meadows for growing hay, as irrigation was difficult, time-consuming, and often not an option. Food crops were often hand irrigated and it was an all day, every day kind of job at this time of year. As time passed, many ranchers dug complex systems of ditches, bringing water from a distance to small diversion channels to water the fields and crops. Sprinkler irrigation came much later, as sprinklers require water pressure usually only available with a pump and/or a large gravity feed system.

The old ditches and furrows have long since disappeared from most fields and new, highly effective water guns have taken over the job of watering the hay crops. Drip irrigation is almost the opposite of a water gun, and is very effective for food crops. Drip irrigation uses water very efficiently, delivering it to the base of the plants and not to the weeds in between the rows.

Some plants do not like to get their leaves wet and others, like zucchini, do not like water on the flowers, so drip irrigation is an excellent choice for crops like tomatoes, squash, and similar plants. In my garden the zucchini grows rampant over the compost and little watering is needed. I add it carefully on the side to make sure the flowers are not wetted. Like everything else the zucchini is early in producing fruit this year, and already we are enjoying fresh little zucchinis with the flowers still attached—just like in the gourmet magazines.

Taking water for granted

Water is the basis of life on this planet. If we didn’t have clean water we would have nothing to eat or drink and life would cease. Yet we tend to take water for granted: just turn on a tap and there it is. Here—where water comes from wells for the most part—one starts to notice just how often water is used and taps turned on when the power is off and there is no water.

There is so little consideration given to ensuring that the earth’s water stays clean. Here at Loon Lake Road we are very fortunate with the number of springs and small creeks coming off the mountains and bringing clean water into the lake and Loon Creek. Loon Lake is deep and holds a lot of water, which stays cold long into the summer and warmish well into the winter season, making it late to freeze over.

Out of sight, into the water supply

The major change the past century has wrought for water at Loon Lake is that decades of logging activity on the mountains appear to have altered the flow of some streams. They may again return to their former patterns as the young forests develop the deep, complex root systems that play a part in how water moves through and over the soil. In general there is very little obvious threat to the water in our area; however, as the population density increases, small individual actions could add up to future problems. Dumping chemicals, diesel, and so forth onto the ground, or flushing pharmaceuticals into the septic tank, creates a legacy of trouble. It is not “away” when you do that— the stuff is on its way to water somewhere.

Sprinklers mean worms to eat

At this time of the year, and with the hot weather, the animals sure seem to appreciate water. I enjoy watching the squirrels drink at the bird water basin. Even the hummingbirds get in on the fun, dancing through the sprinklers. Robins know that a sprinkler means easy picking of worms, and they are right there as soon as they come on.

Report fire ban infringements

The other natural element on the minds of Loon Lake residents at this time is fire, especially wildfire. The sound of fire-fighting planes overhead every day is a reminder of the serious situation around us right now. The recently announced ban on all types of outdoor fires, including campfires and fireworks, has left some worried residents breathing a bit easier.

While most of the people who live at or visit Loon Lake Road are very responsible, there are always one or two who are careless and create potentially dangerous situations. Some visitors love to set off fireworks here when they know it is forbidden in the cities where they live. No one wants to ruin their summer by getting into a confrontation with a careless neighbour, and this ban makes it a lot easier. If you witness some one with a campfire, setting off fireworks, or even dropping a cigarette butt onto the ground do not hesitate to call the wildfire number (1-800-665-5555), providing as much detail as you can about the incident.

Every second counts

These long summer days with the cooling breezes in the evening are being enjoyed; but did you notice that June 30 was even longer than usual? The scientists who keep track of time needed to adjust our clocks, and they added one second onto the last minute of June. In the lifetime of one person it doesn’t make a difference, but in the Earth’s lifetime it can make a difference if adjustments aren’t made regularly. I am amazed by how accurate the earlier scientists who measured and set the day into hours, minutes, and seconds were, while using relatively simple instruments.

Have a fun and safe summer, everyone!

Barbara Hendricks